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Ben B

Reopening of Mothballed routes

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I was hunting down a photo for the "Ghosts in the Machine" thread, about still-extant railway relics which have dodged the scrapman, and kept coming across pictures I'd taken on still-extant, closed lines which are technically 'mothballed'... apologies if this gets a little long-winded;

 

 When traffic falls, I get that it makes more sense to mothball rather than go through the lengthy Parliamentary closure procedures, but just how much money does mothballing a route save?  Track is usually still in place (and at risk of metal theft), bridges and road surfaces at crossings have to be maintained and even signage and signals kept operational and clear, but it often seems (to an outsider, admittedly) that there is no proper official willingness to revive the routes.

 

For example; I have taken photographs over the last 15 years of the Amwlch branch on Anglesey, the former Gobowen-Tanat Valley route at Llynclys, the Trawsfynned Branch, the ex-South Staffs line around Dudley, the nearby Pensnett/Kinswinford Branch, the Ironbridge Power Station line... most of these shut in the 80's/90's (apart from Ironbridge which is recent, and admittedly a bit of a complicated case).  I get that the Tanat Valley op is planned to reopen as a preservation scheme -if they can get money for the ludicrously complicated matter of replacing two level crossings- but the other lines mentioned are connected to the national network still, or at least have track which stop right next to active running lines with points removed.

 

Of those above, there has always seemed to me to have been justification for reopening...  Certainly at the very least the South Staffs route (which in my opinion should never have closed), but twenty-plus years of dithering and seeming political conflict with who would use the corridor, trams or trains, has only ended recently with the Midland Metro finally getting going with a partial re-use of the trackbed.  And I can remember the Kinswinford branch being proposed for a freight reopening in the late 1990's, and a group of local residents who's gardens backed onto the line, and who used it as an unofficial footpath, complaining in a way which made out that the line would have a frequency of trains roughly comparable with the WCML.  Result being it stayed closed.

 

Trawsfynned and Amwlch get mentioned periodically as potential candidates for reopening, and local groups appear to be trying to do their best to clear undergrowth voluntarily, but the chances of trains running ever again seems distant.  In fact all of the above seem to have community support groups campaigning for either preservation or community rail use.  But then the official response from TOC's and so on seems to be that even if you ignore the apparent overwhelming cost of even a single DMU on a few trains a day, there are the structures that need refurbishing and tracks, abandoned and overgrown for decades, needing relaying, and a mass of paperwork and legal matters to overcome, and so the lines are left to rust.

 

Given the costs of re-opening a line after it has been abandoned even for only a year or so, and what looks like a lack of will from rail companies or the Government,  I wondered just how often routes that have been officially mothballed either formally close and get lifted, or see trains again?

 

 

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15 minutes ago, Ben B said:

a group of local residents who's gardens backed onto the line, and who used it as an unofficial footpath, complaining in a way which made out that the line would have a frequency of trains roughly comparable with the WCML. 

 

I was at a planning inquiry in Ireland a couple of years ago and one of the objectors kept referring to the impact of the new 'motorway' on local residents.  The proposed scheme was a single carriageway road with roundabout junctions.

 

15 minutes ago, Ben B said:

Given the costs of re-opening a line after it has been abandoned even for only a year or so, and what looks like a lack of will from rail companies or the Government,  I wondered just how often routes that have been officially mothballed either formally close and get lifted, or see trains again?

 

I don't know the answer.

 

The problem is that reopening a line is expensive and for Government to invest in the reopening, that requires a business case.  It is therefore necessary to show that the benefits of reopening the scheme (eg travel time savings for the anticipated number of passengers) will be greater than the cost of the reinstatement works.  Most lines were closed because of poor patronage, so it's often difficult to demonstrate that there is likely to be a significant number of users and therefore significant benefits, and the lack of that business case becomes a lack of will to reopen the line.  Certainly in Scotland, I'd say that reopening a line to passenger trains is easier to justify than re-opening a line for freight traffic.  This is because the appraisal of transport schemes is normally undertaken over a 60-year horizon.  It's therefore reasonably easy to state that the anticipated patronage of a new service (even if it is relatively modest) will occur year after year throughout the entire appraisal period and may increase if there is planned development.  However, most proposals for freight tend to be centred around a shorter-term need such as felling timber, which may only result in traffic for a few years.  Reopening lines for such purposes, even if they seem to have some merit or popularity locally, are unlikely to 'fly'.  The monetary value of the 'benefits' are unlikely to match the costs.

 

However, I suspect that few lines that have been mothballed are formally closed.  I'm assuming that formal closure would be interpreted as a statement that the track bed is definitely never going to be needed again, and there is perhaps as much reluctance to permanently close a route and allow houses to be built on the track bed as there is to reopen the line.

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A passenger line would need to have a passenger service advertised (even if that is only a one-day-a-week, one-way-only "Parliamentary" train) to avoid formal closure or otherwise an alternative such as a bus service specifically replacing trains must be offered.  How well it might be advertise is a moot point.  Newhaven Marine is finally up for formal closure having had no service available for years.  A single train continues to use the branch as a turnback siding and used to be available as a public service but that has ceased.  The station there once carried a poster (long gone) advising anyone requiring transport to phone for a taxi which Southern would pay for under certain conditions.  

 

Freight lines which are mothballed because no traffic is expected for the foreseeable future but which may see traffic at some time are generally in a different situation.  They may or may not have been passenger lines but formal closure of the passenger service would already have occurred in cases such as Amlwch.  

 

Okehampton is an interesting case.  The line was formally closed to passengers but remained open for freight.  The freight traffic ceased and the line was technically mothballed though running rights were obtained between OKehampton and Meldon for heritage operations.  Subsequently and with the total demise of all commercial freight the entire line back to Coleford Junction has been made available for limited operations by both the heritage operator at Okehampton and Devon County Council-sponsored summer Sunday trips through from Exeter.  The latter are even advertised in the national timetable yet are not a part of the national passenger network nor has the line reopened formally.  As such if those services fail to reappear this year no closure notice is required. 

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Many freight lines just cease operations because theres no freight to run on them.

if business changes they can always be returned to use.

 

Passenger traffic is a little different, a basic service is supposed to run, and theres a whole myriad of unusual routes around the country that see a basic service, some are quite unusual, like Wimbledon to Clapham via the LUL district line or Battersea Park’s one train a day outwards towards Wandsworth road.


until a few years back it was possible to traverse Wimbledon to High Wycombe using odd ball services, and a lot of flexible hours.


take a look here..

http://www.psul4all.free-online.co.uk/2020.html

 

this one is a-rather civilised hour for Londoners to experience a one train a day route to London Bridge..

2I90 1617 Streatham Hill - London Bridge

 

 

Edited by adb968008

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